Sunday, September 16, 2012

CLARE: It's been 5 years, 8 months, and 16 days since Alba and I lost Henry. Now, I live for the slim chance that I will wake up to find him standing naked at the foot of my bed, traveling from a different time.

Time passes slowly. I tend to sleep away most of it. What I don't spend in bed, I spend in my studio, staring at blank drawing paper and the stone cold vats that have been neglected for so long.

Today, I wake up at my normal time, which is about 12 o'clock. Alba has already turned on the coffee for me; I can smell it through the slightly open door. I hear her bare feet padding against the wooden floor as she approaches my room. Quietly, she whispers, "Mama?"

"Yes, Alba?" I say, propping myself up on a few pillows.

"I made you some coffee," she says, offering a steaming cup in front of her. I do my best to give her an appreciative smile.

"Thank you, baby." She silently wiggles her way through the door and sets the beautifully smelling mug on the nightstand. She stands next to the bed, her sad eyes boring into mine.

"I love you, Mama," she assures me. I embrace her, pulling her securely into my arms. After a minute, she pulls away, looks me in the eye and says, "We'll see him again. I know we will."

I close my eyes. "Thank you for the coffee, Alba." She realizes that's her cue to leave. When I open them again, she has gone. I reach over and retrieve my mug from the table. I study it. It's the mug Alba made for Henry when she was two years old. Her tiny hand print takes up the majority of the cup, and right below it is her name and the year it was made, 2004. On the other side, it reads in all caps: HAPPY FATHER'S DAY! I sigh to myself and take a long sip.

I stumble out of bed and slip on my slippers and bathrobe. I wander to my studio still half asleep and as I walk through the door, I hear a soft thud outside of the studio window. Oh my god, could it be? At first, I am unable to investigate; I'm momentarily routed to the spot. But after a minute, I peer out the small glass window to see my Henry. The one and only, lying flat on his face, naked in the dying grass.

I gasp and tears start to pour down my face uncontrollably. It's Henry! He came back! Alba was right! I rush out the door and shout, "Henry! Oh god, it's you!"

He lifts his face to see me, and it immediately lights up to reflect mine. "Of course it is. What year is this? Oh, Clare, don't cry!" He stands up and takes me in his arms. Oh, how I miss being in his arms!

"I love you," I mumble between thick sobs.

"I love you, too, Clare," he whispers in my ear. "What year is this?"

"2012," I manage to spit out.

"Oh, no. I'm dead, aren't I?" He sounds sympathetic and a little surprised. I hesitate for a minute then nod into his bony shoulder. "Oh, Clare! I'm sorry. I love you with all my heart, believe me." The tears start to stream faster.

Before I notice it, Henry is kissing me. Passionately, lovingly. I kiss back, realizing that this is what I've been waiting for. This is what I've been hoping and dreaming of; Henry has come back.

A thrill goes through me as he strips me down to nothing in the chilly September afternoon. My memories didn't do him justice. I can't believe this is happening. I'm crying again, but these are tears of joy. I would give anything to keep him here and now.

Henry works quickly, not wasting a second. He must know he doesn't have much time. I grasp his arms and pull him into me, trying to hold on to this moment as long as possible. His body is warm against mine as we move together. I commit this piece of heaven to memory while he moves expertly inside of me. Within a heartbeat, we both cry out, and he is gone.

I lie there behind the studio, legs splayed, completely naked and completely alone once more.